Angels agree to terms with Gary Matthews Jr.

By JOHN NADEL, AP Sports Writer
November 22, 2006

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Gary Matthews Jr. reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday on a $50 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels following a career year with the Texas Rangers.

"It came down to the Angels and the Giants," Scott Leventhal, Matthews' agent, told The Associated Press. "The deciding factors were that he was so familiar with the American League, its pitching, the Western Division, and his roots in L.A. with his family."

Matthews must pass a physical before the deal is completed.

Leventhal said Matthews made his decision Wednesday morning. Matthews also had been sought by the San Francisco Giants.

"They were right there," Leventhal said. "It was a very difficult decision. More than 10 teams kicked the tires. Everybody couldn't be more pleased."

San Francisco also was said to be offered $50 million over five years before the Angels matched that package.

Matthews, a 32-year-old switch-hitter, batted .313 with 102 runs, 44 doubles, 19 homers, 79 RBIs and a .371 on-base percentage as the Rangers' leadoff hitter. He became the third player in Rangers' history to hit for the cycle, doing so on Sept. 13 at Detroit.

"One of our objectives during this offseason was to improve ourselves in center field," Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said. "We believe Gary is a great fit for this ballclub. In addition to his outstanding play in center field, he has the versatility to lead off or hit deeper in the lineup."

Matthews was a first-time All-Star last season. Among his highlight-reel catches was one on a ball hit by Houston's Mike Lamb on July 1. Matthews sprinted, leaped and stuck his glove far over the 8-foot wall in center to make the catch. Even Lamb applauded after standing in the infield and watching the replay on the scoreboard.

Matthews blossomed after signing a minor league deal with the Rangers in 2004. He had been released earlier that spring by the Atlanta Braves, the team for which his father, Gary Matthews Sr., was an All-Star in 1979.

The younger Matthews had played for five teams (Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York Mets and San Diego) the previous three seasons.

Matthews' parents live in Southern California. His father was nicknamed "Sarge," and he has been called "Little Sarge."